Thai and Burmese migrant advocacy groups on Wednesday called on the Thai government to lay out a concrete migrant policy for those Burmese who have passed the National Verification (NV) process and have entered or are planning to enter Thailand for work.
They also requested a clear policy be implemented for those migrant workers who have lived in Thailand for four years.
According to a 2003 Memorandum of Understanding signed between Thailand and Burma, any migrant who has been in Thailand for four continuous years must return home for three years before becoming eligible to return to Thailand for work purposes.
But most migrants need to stay with their jobs in Thailand to support their families back home in Burma, the advocacy groups said, adding that employers don’t want to lose trained workers in times of labour shortages, and that Burma is not yet ready to receive all the returning migrants into its job market.
Speaking to DVB on Wednesday, Sawit Keawwan, general-secretary of the State Enterprises Workers’ Relations Confederation, said Burmese workers are an integral part of the Thai economy.
“We have to offer a good policy and service to migrant workers,” he said. “The international community, especially the USA, is watching how effective our policies are. I want Burmese workers to enjoy the same rights as Thais.”
The advocacy groups also urged the Thai government to provide the opportunity and a clear policy for migrant workers to have access to social security and healthcare. They added that a mechanism should be in place for punishing brokers and employers who exploit migrant workers.
Aung Kyaw, a representative from the Thailand-based Migrant Worker Rights Network, said the return of a large number of migrants to Burma would have an impact on the Thai economy.
“The Thai government accepts and agrees that migrant workers should be given appropriate opportunities to work in the country,” he said. “But we need to hear an official policy. Everything is vague among employers, workers and brokers.”
Many Burmese migrants have complained that they have been victims of job brokers who have overcharged them and misinformed them.
Kyaw Kyaw Lwin, the labour attaché at the Burmese Embassy in Bangkok, acknowledged that migrant workers endured numerous hardships and that the number of people facing the four-year deadline is mounting.“There will be nearly 100,000 workers whose visas will expire at the end of this year,” he said, and recommended that all stakeholders prepare to discuss the situation at their earliest convenience.
Thailand currently plays host to an estimated 3 million foreign workers, over 80 percent of whom come from Burma.